Threat to Spirit of Learning

Having digested two articles, "Leaving No Child Behind at Bailey's" [Metro, Oct. 23] -- a reader's response to an Oct. 12 column by Marc Fisher -- and "No One Need Feel Left Behind by Federal Education Mandate" by Jay Mathews [Fairfax Extra, Nov. 4], I'd like to share some thoughts from the inside.

Being an educator for the past 30 years and a passionate advocate for kids, I would encourage both journalists (and politicians) to spend a month in any school and shadow a multitude of students (English as a Second Language, special education, gifted and talented, learning disabled or general ed).

By spending time behind the scenes with those impacted the most by federal regulations, they may more fully understand that although standards are a must, killing the spirit of learning (in which the arts should play an integral part) is what is in jeopardy.

The tremendous emphasis on testing often stresses out students more than anyone. A classic comment shared by one of them recently was, "Since the first grade, all we do is review, and now I'm in the fifth grade wondering when are we going to start learning?"

Much more than reviewing goes on in classrooms, but there seems to be an obscene obsession about No Child Left Behind. Jean Frey, principal at Bailey's Elementary School, is an exemplary educational role model and risk-taker due to her love for children and the learning process. Fairfax County public schools are extremely fortunate to have many Jean Freys who are able to follow protocol and also help the curious brains that walk through the door each day reaching for knowledge.

Where we need help is with the dynamic force of teachers and administrators (especially the young ones) who try valiantly to be the essential core guiding students into the future. If assistance is not provided for them to strike a balance with basics and creativity, the future of education will look very bleak indeed.

Teaching truly is a challenging task. When mandates are made, they need to be backed up with time and money -- lots of it.

Maureen A. Culhane

Falls Church